Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center

NEWS: Landmark Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against the City of Chicago Alleging Racially Discriminatory Policing and Violent Police Abuse

A class action lawsuit seeking federal court oversight of the Chicago Police Department’s (“CPD’s”) operations has been filed on behalf of thousands of individuals, predominately Blacks and Latinxs, who have been subjected to the CPD’s policy and practice of using force in racially discriminatory and often brutal ways. Also joining the lawsuit are a number of community-based organizations that are deeply-rooted in Chicago’s Black and Latinx communities, including Black Lives Matter-Chicago, Blocks Together, the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Justice for Families, Women’s All Point Bulletin, Network 49, and the 411 Movement for Pierre Loury.

This lawsuit was filed months after U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Sessions announced that he would not support litigation that would subject police departments to federal court oversight and on the heels of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s announcement that the City hopes to execute an out-of-court settlement agreement with Sessions’ U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to Sessions’ appointment as the U.S. Attorney General, the Department of Justice had signed an “agreement in principle” with the City of Chicago to subject the CPD to federal court oversight. Now, the Plaintiffs seek a federal court order that would finally transform the CPD and end the Department’s racist and violent policing practices.

The lawsuit details the history of discriminatory policing in the City of Chicago and describes how the CPD – in the absence of federal court oversight – has proven time and time again that it is incapable of ending its own regime of terror, brutality, and racism. The complaint alleges that the CPD violates the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as under the Illinois Civil Rights Act.

News release (pdf) »

Campbell v. City of Chicago (pdf) »

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center is a public interest law firm founded in 1985 by the family of J. Roderick MacArthur to advocate for human rights and social justice through litigation. The MacArthur Justice Center became part of Northwestern University School of Law's Bluhm Legal Clinic in 2006. As one of the premier civil rights organizations in the United States, the MacArthur Justice Center has led battles against myriad civil rights injustices, including police misconduct (leading the charge to appoint a special prosecutor in the Jon Burge torture cases in Chicago), executions (helping to abolish the Illinois death penalty), fighting for the rights of the indigent in the criminal justice system, and winning multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for the wrongfully convicted.

The MacArthur Justice Center has been at the forefront of challenges to the detention of terrorism suspects without trial or access to the courts. MacArthur Justice Center lawyers have appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue for the rights of detainees.

"We are outraged when the rule of law is abandoned in favor of expediency," says Center Executive Director Locke Bowman. "And so we fight for the rights of folks whose voices don't get heard in the criminal justice system. We're concerned about people on death row, about people accused of crimes but who cannot afford lawyers, about folks who are innocent and must be compensated for the time they wrongly spent in prison."

Students are involved in nearly every case the MacArthur Justice Center takes. They serve on litigation teams, conduct and apply legal research, and plan next steps to advance litigation. Some cases, such as wrongful conviction compensation cases, are complex; involving lengthy pre-trial process, motion practice, written discovery, depositions, and, sometimes, a trial. Students gain first-hand experience in court, and in certain instances, get opportunities to make presentations to a Federal judge.

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